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The detective needs to do detecting to solve the crime. Consider this part of the oath written by G.K. Chesterton for the British Detection Club: "Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow on them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God?"
Mystery stories should begin with ACTION! They should have an energetic, suspenseful start.
If your story is for middle-grade readers stick with a single viewpoint. YA can have multiple viewpoints as long as it helps the story progress and works to deepen the mystery.
A good mystery will have a ticking time bomb…the character has so much time to solve the mystery or THE WHOLE WORLD ENDS!
Remember to ask yourself, WHAT IF. And then think it through. You don’t want plot holes.
In mysteries your main character is the most important part of your story. You don’t need a lot of back-story or painful character growth. Mysteries are fast, curious, and intriguing.
Choose minor characters carefully. Best friends are good because it will give your main character someone to talk to. Don’t be afraid to let these minor characters be different or even a bit unreliable.
So, the main character has a problem and must solve it by him/herself. In a mystery the problem has to do with the solution of the mystery.
Remember to have each chapter end at an exciting place! And THEN….
Keep track of the clues that you use in your story and pay attention to your “red herrings.” Red herrings are bits of information that are designed to mislead readers by making them suspect the wrong characters.
Suspense is an important ingredient in a mystery story. Allow your characters to be scared.
The setting should fit the mood of the story. Write so vividly that readers feel like they are right there with your character.
Readers should meet the main character RIGHT AT THE BEGINNING.
Know how your story will end before you begin to write it.
Don’t try to fool the reader by having the detective use a silly disguise, twins, or a revelation from the Angel Featherduster.
Make sure the clues you give your young reader are ones that they have access to and can understand. (If the caper is solved because the kid knows how to disarm a thermonuclear device, then the kid had better be THAT smart from the first sentence).
Don’t make up stupid stuff. If you aren’t sure how a policeman would investigate something, go ask them.
Show don’t tell. Of course. So important. Pay attention to how many times you use was. Try NOT to use was, if you have to, do it sparingly.
Make sure you read your dialogue out loud and have someone listen. Your dialogue has to be realistic for your mystery to keep a good pace.